Ken Done – Australiana at it very best

When it comes to an example of art in real life Ken Done mastered this concept. As a child of the eighties Ken Done was a consistent feature in my childhood experience of art. From my swimmers to my doona cover, to the table place mats, beach towel graphics, the postcards I collected every trip to Sydney and the scarf loosely tied around my mama’s décolletage – his art was everywhere in my world – and I loved it!! I still do, thirty odd years later.

He broke a static mould for Australiana Art that the exuberant tourist and landscape weary citizens alike collected as souvenirs of abstract Australian life. The colours were so representative of the carefree happiness of Aussie life, the lifework represented our abundant freedom and the scenes he captured were iconic locations of Sydney delivered in a new albeit not so sophisticated manner but definitely celebratory in style. I guess as a child all these concepts were a little lost on me – because what I saw was bright, bright, bright colours that were a distinct bolt of excitement amongst the 80’s Nutrimetic Apricot & Cream interior decoration that was ever so pervasive in the homes of the day – and they were aspirational as I decided quite early on that I needed to visit each the places he painted to see if they really looked that way. Kid logic they called it!

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This piece above and the one below are two of those in my own hometown regional gallery – with the painting below Burning Cane depicting my beautiful home.

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It was around this early time in my life I first felt the feelings of rage when I heard people (usually dad’s) saying “I could do that, you can do that, Mr Scribble can do that”.  Man alive really?? I recall wanting to go and get my paints and give them to said persons and say – “ok go ahead, I’d love to see how well you can do that!” but alas as a child I just accessed that little reserve tank of grace and continued staring at the beautiful brilliant pools of colour. Nowadays – my reserve is empty and I certainly do not exude grace at this comment!

I digress. My apologese.

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The media loved Mr Done! Loved him! I recall flipping through my mama’s Women’s Weekly magazines for my “collage projects and decoupage projects” (oh insert cringing face) and being waylaid by the multiple pages throughout featuring Ken Done homewares, fashion, accessories, jewellery and poster art. I recall having a cork pinboard on my wall with torn out shards of Ken Done a frequently pinned item – much to my mama’s annoyance, I think she even took a page of that board to finish reading the article on the reverse side!

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My favourite piece Bungle Bungle – housed at the Grafton Regional Art Gallery

Nowadays, Ken Done is less frequently found, however I am certain most Australian of the eighties could dig deep in their side board or linen closet and find a remnant of his art amongst the time weathered and dusty keepsakes that just can’t be discarded for sentimental rationale. He is I was pleased to find out still a practicing artist and has recently resurrected his art with a whole new philosophy (read about this here) and you can still buy his older prints.

His style is instantly recognisable and to be honest I have not come across anyone who has attempted to replicate his works. The compositional expertise of Ken Done is awe inspiring to artists, however his work was widely poo-pooed by the art aficionados of the day – which is likely associated with the hyper-commercialisation of his art. I like to point out that the art afficiandos of the days past also did a great deal of poo-pooing toward the impressionists, dadaist, pop-artists – in fact who listens to critics anyways? I still believe that he holds a special place in the heart of Australians as a wonderful commodity and a collectable artist.

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In fact I have started seeing around the place young girls sporting “vintage” scarfs and hand bags they scored from their local op-shop for a treat – featuring the beautiful and unmistakeable art of Mr Ken Done. Not sure they know the relevance of their purchase – but I am certain someone (possibly me) is more than happy to stop them in the street and do that age old right of passage bragging “oh I had one of those when I was a teenage girl too, don’t you just adore Ken Done”. I am acutely aware I am highly likely to get the deer in the headlights stare back at me – but you never know that comment may just spark her interest enough to reintroduce Ken Done Art to the next generation.

 

So tell me, you had a piece of Ken Done didn’t you? Bet you wish you could find it right about now and do some serious reminiscing of lazy days by the water wearing your fruit salad dress and bright yellow sandals sipping from your can of solo and about to dig into some salty chips with sauce…

C&M

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Abbey McCulloch – The Early Years

The previous posts have given you an insight about my hunting and gathering behaviour to find artists and collect beautiful pieces of art. So from this point on my post will be about what this blog is all about – talking about the artists and the art I love to collect and dream to one day curate.

The first post (and likely a few future ones too) is reserved for the early brilliance of Abbey McCulloch. By now you will have recognised that I am a wee bit enamoured by Ms McCulloch. If you haven’t come to this realisation then you can back track for a minute and see why here. Abbey McCulloch is a graduate of Queensland College of Art having completed her Masters in Fine Art.  Since graduation she has been providing Australia and the world with colour drenched paintings of wide-eyed, provocatively posed ingénue. Listed as one of Australia’s 50 Most Collectable Artists, her work is now in such demand that often the pieces are sold before the oil slicked to the canvas has even dried – purely from the anticipation and trust in her brilliance.

The talented and oh so fine, Abbey McCulloch

I want to back track a few years and take you to the early series of exhibitions featured at the Schubert Contemporary Gallery .  It was The Penny Drops (2007) and The Sting (2008) exhibitions that I fell in love, head over heals, totally infatuated with the beautiful creatures Abbey created. The collection of works featured girls in provocative flirty poses with innocence oozing from the canvas simply by virtue of the acuity of the solid line Abbey used to capture these delightful beings. These works had a suggestion of child-like drafts, that someone in the artists inner circle secretly released to the public, seemingly believing they would be an absolute smash! And right, they were!

Abbey has made comment in interviews, about her inspiration and voyeuristic tendencies when she is planning her pieces.  When I look at these images I imagine her sitting in an old beat up couch at a cafe or squeezed between kissing couples at a loud frat party, quietly sketching and watching, seemingly unnoticed – yet the only one in the room completely connected to everything around her and drinking it all in without a single soul knowing they are about to be captured in that moment……forever.

Photo credit: Schubert Contemporary Gallery for Abbey McCulloch copyright.

In the press release that accompanied The Penny Drops exhibition (images above) at the Schubert Contemporary Galley in 2007, Abbey had this to say about her works:

“People ask me why I only paint women. It’s the flux. It’s the nonsense and the folly. I have a persistent desire to document this, and if it seems a bit ‘mammoths and bison’ on a cave wall, it probably is. I am trying to freeze a moment in time and make it mine.” 

While they appear child-like in construction, far be it for any person to profess, “My 10 year old could do that”. I heard this once and this was my response “No Sir, your child could not, and I’ll tell you why – Ms McCulloch captures the emotional content of a woman’s mind, heart and essence in the most delicate of nuances. These are not merely lines of charcoal and paint, these are lines that represent love, vulnerability, fear, sex, confusion, happiness, loneliness, passion, anger, strength and so much more. That Sir is why you should eat your words”. Needless to say I probably presented quite miffed and graciously he declined any further comment. Cheekily though, I did detect a slight sideways grin and wink from the young lady he accompanied.

So here in lies the ultimate coveted piece for little old me – I will continue to dream until my dying day of hanging one of these precious ingénue in my home – I plan to hang it in my boudoir so I can gaze upon her every morning when I wake and every night when I lay me down to rest. Such sweet dreaming……

I am sure to write more about Abbey McCulloch’s impressive exhibitions but for now, starting at the very beginning will suffice.

C&M